Last week we hosted a community energy forum exploring heat and energy efficiency with Northern Powergrid. Making the energy we use to heat our homes low carbon is one of the biggest challenges in achieving net zero, and community energy representatives in Northern Powergrid’s region have wanted to hear more about how communities can help tackle that problem.

At the forum, we were joined by Kayla Ente of Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op (BHESCo), one of the community energy movement’s pioneers for heat decarbonisation projects. BHESCo are helping people in Sussex access clean, affordable, community-owned heat and power. BHESCo have delivered 50 community owned energy projects since 2013, and recently they have been helping homes in rural areas switch from burning heating oil to shared ground source heat pumps powered by solar PV with battery storage.

Many participants at the forum were disappointed in the absence of community energy in the government’s recently announced 10-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. Yet BHESCo’s approach demonstrates the leading role community and local energy organisations can have in helping us decarbonise our homes and communities to achieve net zero. There are enough roles for community energy to form its own 10-point plan:

  1. Tackling the climate emergency locally
  2. Alleviating fuel poverty
  3. Making our homes more energy efficient
  4. Giving trusted energy advice
  5. Educating people on energy issues
  6. Capturing the value of energy locally
  7. Improving local air quality through clean energy and transport
  8. Supporting the networks with flexible low-carbon technologies
  9. Being local energy innovators
  10. Building community resilience

The community energy organisations who joined us at the forum take on a number of these roles, and they will continue to be actively involved in the UK’s energy future.

Network operators like Northern Powergrid can help communities in their local energy ambitions, and we heard about projects they’ve been doing with communities in their region such as the Boston Spa Energy Efficiency Trial. This project is seeking to use near-real-time smart meter voltage information to optimise the voltage our customers receive. This should then improve the efficiency of devices that customers use – lowering bills and carbon emissions. Northern Powergrid are keen to support more energy efficiency schemes and other community energy projects through their Community Partnering Fund.

Northern Powergrid shared how they think their customers could have a role in optimising the energy efficiency of their network, as the electrical network losses are lower if less energy is used by customers or if energy is used at off-peak times. Reducing losses from the network is important because they contribute to over 90% of a DNO’s carbon footprint and cost the average domestic customers around £8-9 per year.

If you missed our recent community energy forum, you can watch the recording of the session, or head to Northern Powergrid’s community energy website for useful tools and resources. Watch this space for information on more forums we will be bringing you in 2021, we hope you’ll join us.

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